October 10, 1960
NEW YORK -- That was a smiling picture of President Eisenhower, Mr. Dillon of the State Department, and President Sukarno of Indonesia which greeted us in one of our metropolitan newspapers the other day. Despite the geniality shown, however, President Sukarno and the other neutralist leaders could not have been very pleased at having their suggestion of a meeting between President Eisenhower and Mr. Khrushchev turned down. Doubtless they felt that if they could get these two principals together and commit them to some form of action it would be extremely difficult for a new President at any future time to refuse to follow the pattern established.
As a matter of fact, I would suspect that these five neutral heads of government1 have given a good deal of time to contacts with Mr. Khrushchev in the last few days. What they have been able to bring about in these conversations may never emerge publicly, but I think it would be hard for anyone to spend a whole evening -- three solid hours -- with Mr. Nehru and his advisers and not develop some kind of new thinking as a result.
I spent an hour with Mr. Khrushchev as a guest in my home on Thursday afternoon. He could not have been pleasanter. We had some conversation on the economics of our two systems. But as I cannot set myself up as an expert in this area, Mr. Khrushchev could be gentle with me -- and I could certainly not be too positive on my views with him.
One cannot help speculating, as one watches the kaleidoscope of heads of state meeting in the U. N. and then returning to their own homes again, what will be the effects on each of them as a result of their contacts with each other. The three hours spent with Mr. Nehru by Mr. Khrushchev, for example, must have stirred some depths that are rarely touched in that highly intelligent and emotional Russian leader. In any case, there is no question in my mind but what contacts of some of the men who have come together in the last few weeks will have a lasting effect on the thinking of some of their colleagues, and may change future history.
* * *
As one thinks of the contacts men make with each other, one cannot help wondering whether in a campaign such as our current one for the Presidency there is not a real contact between the two contenders on either side. It is a contact made through opposition. Each strains hard to find reasons why the other man is wrong; and in the process, I believe, each makes an impact on the other, if for no other reason than the mere fact of having to try and meet what they think will be the arguments of their opponent. I have always found it was a help to clarification of my own thinking if I had to listen to an opposing position and then, point by point, work out the answers in reply.
This is certainly what we are watching day by day in the campaign between Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Nixon. Is one candidate more ingenious than the other, better able to think of more ways to meet the problems that lie before us? If he can convince his fellow citizens that he is better able to meet these problems, then the people may well be prepared to agree with him.
One thing I would like to bring home to every voter. Many of you may still have the opportunity to register in the next few days. Remember: if you do not register, you cannot vote. You may not care what your government does, but most of you do care whether anyone listens to you when you want a better school, some new housing or some new recreational facilities in your neighborhood. Unless you have voted for your local candidates, they won't listen to you on these subjects which touch your daily lives. It is the fact that you have a vote that makes you important to them.
Incidentally electing good Congressmen like William FitzRyan2 and Bill Vanden Heuvel3 in New York, or Gore Vidal4 up in my neck of the woods is very important to our national picture. No President can afford not to have a substantial majority of his own party in Congress at the present time, for he always has to overcome some divisions which are almost inevitable within the party itself.
There is also a non-partisan crusade to register 1,000,000 new Negro voters this year. The sponsors of the call to these voters include many names familiar to good citizens everywhere in our country, both colored and white, and we hope that the effect of this crusade will be widely felt.
Index to this Document: 1960 presidential election: negative campaigning and; African Americans: ER and; voter registration and; Auchincloss, Hugh D.; Dillon, Douglas; Eisenhower, Dwight D.: Sukarno and; Fitts Ryan, William: ER on; Gore, Albert, Sr.; Gore, Thomas P.; Kennedy, Jacqueline; Kennedy, John F.; Khrushchev, Nikita: Jawaharlal Nehru meets with; ER meets with at Val-Kill, 1960; Sukarno, Eisenhower and; My Day; Nehru, Jawaharlal: Khrushchev meets with; neutrality of; Nixon, Richard; Roosevelt, Eleanor: African American voters and; on citizenship; William Fitts Ryan, endorsement of; Khrushchev meets with at Val-Kill, 1960; Jawaharlal Nehru and; on leadership; on negative campaigning; political advice of; on Sukarno; on U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations; on voter registration; U.S. government, on U.S. Congress; on Gore Vidal; William Vanden Heuvel, endorsement of; Sukarno: as leader of neutral state; Eisenhower, Khrushchev and; ER on; U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations: United Nations (UN); Vanden Heuvel, William: ER's endorsement of; Vidal, Gore: ER on; Voter registration: African Americans and; ER on need for
Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. http://adh.sc.edu.
For more information, visit The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers home page at http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/.
Copyright © 2006. The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. All rights reserved.